MANCHESTER, NH ‒ At times like this, when the outdoors is one of the few safe spaces for people to recreate and relax, the timing couldn’t have been better for an organic boost from Stonyfield Organic and Hannaford Supermarket.
On Monday a check for $10,000 was presented to the city to make two city parks even safer by converting Livingston and Bronstein into “organic parks,” which means using alternative maintenance that doesn’t require traditional chemicals and toxins.
Stonyfield’s #Playfree initiative launched two years ago and so far 34 cities are participating. Being so close to home, it was time to bring Manchester into the fold, said Kristina Drociak of Stonyfield Organic, which is based in Londonderry.
“There’s so much potential in the city and we couldn’t be more proud to work with Manchester to convert their fields,” Drociak said.
According to Stonyfield most parks and public grounds around the country are managed using a combination of herbicides, insecticides and fungicides and research shows that pesticide exposure can have adverse effects on humans including neurological, respiratory, immune and endocrine system issues.
A survey conducted by Stonyfield showed more than 92 percent of area residents have sought sanctuary in the outdoors during the COVID-19 quarantine, with only 40 percent of those aware that public parks are using pesticides to treat grass. In that way the #Playfree campaign doubles as a public awareness campaign, as well.
Chip Osborne of Osborne Organics and founder of the Organic Landscape Association, explained his company, based in Marblehead, Mass., is a national consultant for the industry. Use of dangerous herbicides and pesticides dates back to the mid-20th century, before the long-term effects of such chemicals was widely understood.
Demand for organic alternatives from homeowners and cities has exploded in the past two years, Osborne said.
“We don’t just swap out organic products for what’s currently being used. We take a whole different approach and treat this field as its own ecosystem, and the most important part of that system is everything that’s underground that you can’t see,” Osborne said.
The $10,000 will cover two years of products for the two city fields, plus education and training for city workers who will be able to administer the treatments. The city’s goal is to make all city parks #Playfree zones, something that has happened in other New Hampshire cities, including Dover, which started working with Stonyfield six years ago, and Portsmouth, which has been organic for two years, Osborne said.
He said that in the long-term it’s cheaper for a city to go organic, depending on how good or bad the underlying soil is and what corrective actions need to be taken.
“The worst-case scenario is that it’s cost-neutral,” Osborne said.
Stonyfield has previously partnered with NH Fisher Cats to transform the field at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium using organic field management techniques, a two-year process that began in April 2019.